Subject: RT: Indonesia, East Timor Plan Panel on 1999 Rampage

Indonesia, East Timor Plan Panel on 1999 Rampage

Dec 21, 2004 — By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Indonesia and East Timor announced plans on Tuesday to create a joint commission in hopes of putting behind them a 1999 rampage in which Indonesian gangs killed about 1,000 East Timorese.

In setting up a Commission on Truth and Friendship, the two countries hope to head off a parallel initiative by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is weighing his own expert commission to review whether justice was done after the 1999 violence, their foreign ministers said after talks with Annan.

The violence, carried out by gangs supported by elements in the Indonesian army, was triggered by a referendum in which East Timor voted to break free from Jakarta after 24 years of brutal military rule.

Mainly Catholic East Timor finally became independent in May 2002 after 2-1/2 years of U.N. administration, closing the book on centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and its later occupation by Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Indonesia set up a special human rights court in 2000 to try military and police officers charged in connection with the rampage. But while the court convicted six of the 18 put on trial, five convictions were later overturned and an appeal of the sixth is still pending.

The idea for the joint commission stemmed from a dinner meeting in Bali on Dec. 14 between Indonesian President Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono and his East Timorese counterpart Xanana Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader who fought Indonesian rule.

The commission "is meant as an alternative to the idea of establishing the commission of experts" being considered by Annan, said Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

"This is an initiative which we believe is highly positive and will shed truth on the events of the past," East Timor's foreign minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, told reporters.

The commission's work "would finally close this chapter. We would hope and intend that this initiative would resolve once and for all the … events of 1999," Ramos-Horta said.

The two ministers said Annan reserved judgment on whether he would go ahead with his own review. But the New York-based International Federation for East Timor said he should do so.

East Timor and Indonesia "are not equal partners, with a common interest in justice. A binational commission will just be another mechanism for Indonesia to bully its smaller, weaker neighbor," the group said in a letter to Annan.

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